Headlines: March 9th, 2009

Measures to tackle the problem of littering, including greater consistency in the way that local councils impose penalties, are set out in a report published today. ‘Litterbugs’ has been produced by the Policy Exchange and the Campaign to Protect Rural England to highlight what they see as ‘the blight of littering in Britain.’

The report says there has been a 500 per cent increase in the amount of litter dropped each year and that local authorities are left to pay an estimated 500 million pounds a year to clean it up. The reports says litter adds to the air of neglect in local communities, adding to crime rates and anti-social behaviour. Companies in heavily-littered areas, it says, are losing business.

The CPRE President, Bill Bryson, said, “This report identifies the lack of any systematic logic in enforcement policy. Fines are an essential enforcement tool, and one which needs to be applied far more consistently than is currently the case.” There had to be community buy-in, he said, to the fight against litter and he added, “We must build civic pride in clean and tidy environments, with communities competing to be spotless. Only then can we stop the exasperating and routine vandalism of a country so rich in natural, cultural and built heritage.”

Calling for consistency over penalties, the report says too few councils use fines and there is a tendency for them not be given to the worst offenders, such as young urban males, because wardens see fines as threatening and dangerous.

Other recommendations include a national body to coordinate anti-littering initiatives, campaigns and programmes, taking account of litter and littering behaviour in the design of public spaces and the introduction of a deposit scheme. It points to the experience of New York State where a deposit scheme has led to high levels of public support and dramatic falls in container and drive-by litter.